Film Clips

Langston Hughes: “Ballad of Roosevelt”

Film clip. Voices of a People’s History.
Dramatic reading of Langston Hughes’ “Ballad of Roosevelt” (1934) by Danny Glover.

Time Periods: 20th Century, Prosperity, Depression, & World War II: 1920 - 1944
Themes: African American, Democracy & Citizenship

Writer, poet, activist Langston Hughes. Photo: Blackpast.org.

Langston Hughes’ poem Ballad of Roosevelt (1934) captures the feeling of being “damn tired” of waiting for support from the political leadership.

Ballad of Roosevelt

The pot was empty,

The cupboard was bare.

I said, Papa,

What’s the matter here?

I’m waitin’ on Roosevelt, son,

Roosevelt, Roosevelt,

Waitin’ on Roosevelt, son.

The rent was due,

And the lights was out.

I said, Tell me, Mama,

What’s it all about?

We’re waitin’ on Roosevelt, son,

Roosevelt, Roosevelt, [Continue reading.]

Langston Hughes’ poem is read by Danny Glover May 2, 2007, at The Great Hall at Cooper Union, New York, NY. The excerpt is from Voices of a People’s History of the United States edited by Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove.

Many more video clips can be found at the Voices of a People’s History website and in the film The People Speak.